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Buying and Selling: What’s the Best Way to Get the Best Deal for Your Car?

May 23, 2024

CarMax advertising reads, “This is the way car buying should be.”  But is it?  CarMax offers a sell/trade service that promises an offer for your car in just a couple of minutes and once the offer is accepted and verified, it will “pay you on the spot.”  CarMax makes an offer for your vehicle whether or not you buy one of the tens of thousands of cars they list for sale.

Carvana spends a lot of money on TV commercials, that feature a variety of songs, characters and celebrities.  The ads promise that you can trade in or sell your car with, “No haggling. No headaches.”  Carvana will do a “…quick, on-site review of your vehicle and pay you on the spot.”   Sounds good.  But is it the best deal you can get?

According to Nate Mihalovich, CEO of The Lasso, these two e-commerce giants, even compared to other “instant cash” offer companies, will give you the best deal only 20% of the time.  In a post on X by Car Dealership Guy, he states that dealers are very good at beating those offers and that, “we rarely see them lose to CarMax or Carvana.”  Mihalovich says that if the seller gets multiple offers from a variety of sources, the dealer equipped with that information is motivated to beat those offers because it can win in another part of the transaction—selling you a new car.

It should perhaps be noted that The Lasso, founded by Mihalovich, is a consumer-driven auction created to sell cars directly to its network of dealerships.  Nonetheless, it would seem that when it comes time to trade-in your car, getting multiple offers from online companies will give dealers incentive to make a better one.  On the other hand, if you want to sell an older vehicle with minimum inconvenience, Carvana, CarMax, or other used-car retailers offer ease of use and competitive pricing.  And if you don’t mind spending time to locate and negotiate with potential buyers, most experts agree that, “you will always make more selling [the car] yourself.”1

You can also find an interview with Nate Mihalovich on the Car Dealership Guy podcast,  “From $300M Exit to Transforming How Dealers Buy Used Cars” (available on YouTube

Car Dealership Guy, May 20, 2024, on X

1Crowell, Andrew, September 15, 2022, Key Savvy, “Is it better to trade-in or sell yourself?”